Three residents tell Janet Reeder why they are proud to call North Wales home.

Great British Life: Janeen and Nigel Shaw on their open-top two-seater. (c) Paul MorgansJaneen and Nigel Shaw on their open-top two-seater. (c) Paul Morgans

Janeen and Nigel Shaw

Musicians, Llandudno

Janeen: I was born in Long Island, New York, and came here in 1968. My parents were British and emigrated to the States for more adventure. They had me and my brother and decided to come back. I went to the City of Leeds College of music as a pianist and singer and that’s where I met Nigel. I come from a musical background; my father always loved singing. My Uncle Manny was the conductor of the Jewish male voice choir, and worked with Barbra Streisand on the film Yentl. So, there was always a love of music in the house.

We’ve been married 43 years this year. After we married, Nigel got a job with Scottish Opera while I sang with the BBC Scottish Singers. When you are with the opera companies you travel around, and you can see marriages splitting up, so we decided to do something together. My dad knew a woman who was a manager for showbiz acts and that’s how we started. We worked as an act called Shaw Thing in Gibraltar, Bahrain, Cyprus, and Israel. This lady knew the showbiz impresario Clive Stock, who lived in Llandudno. We auditioned for him at the Arcadia Theatre in town in February, and he gave us Easter Showtime. We worked alongside big names like Ray Allen and Lord Charles, Moira Anderson, The Beverley Sisters, Frankie Howerd, Russ Conway, Derek Batey and Ken Goodwin at the Arcadia. Happy times; I loved performing.

I was turning 30 when we decide to settle here in Llandudno. We did cabaret and played for dances five nights a week in two hotels, wheeling our instruments in a trolley up and down the seafront at night.

We had our two boys: William, now 31 and David, 26 and lived at a house in Llandudno Junction because that’s all we could afford at the time, then moved to where we now live in 2000 because we wanted a detached house where we can make noise and music and don’t bother people. Nigel started teaching at Bangor University and one day his boss rang and said: 'I’ve got some more piano work for you can you do it?' He said: 'I can’t but my wife is a qualified piano teacher,' and that’s how I started peripatetic teaching.

We were doing concerts and Nigel had his own choir, called Amici del Canto, and we travelled to many places. He had quite a flourishing business and I eventually got a job in a school.

I’m still singing in choirs. I auditioned for Chester Bach singers so I buzz into Chester once a week and do my thing there.

Nigel: I’ve been working with Opera North and Scottish Opera but one of the things I didn’t like about the opera was you were always on tour.

When our first son was little, I was also making doll’s furniture. The owner of one of the hotels we worked in, the Trevone, was into doll making and she opened a place called the Rabbit Hole, as Llandudno has its Alice in Wonderland connection (through Alice Liddle, who inspired its author Charles Dodgson). She made all the tea party characters: the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse. I asked if they’d like me to have a go at making the furniture and she was delighted with the result, so I had another little business. The pieces sold in Australia and Japan. Then someone saw me singing in Liverpool and asked me if I’d do singing lessons and my career went in that direction.

I’m still making furniture. I’ve made all our kitchen and bedroom furniture; I’ve always enjoyed doing it.

We also love riding our Orbit tandem. People often ask us what we drive, and I say: 'We’ve got a little two-seater open top. 'What make is it?' they ask. 'Is it fast?' I reply: 'It all depends on how hard you’re pedalling.'

The best thing about living in North Wales is the countryside. We’ve got some of the best coastline in Britain and if you avoid places like Snowdon you get them to yourself. It’s a bit like Northumberland and Cumbria, you can walk for days and days and not see a soul.

Great British Life: Writer Andy Roberts. (c) Paul MorgansWriter Andy Roberts. (c) Paul Morgans

Andy Roberts

Writer and folklorist, Holywell

I live in this town on the Dee Estuary looking across towards the Wirral with my wife Mandy. The name is a derivation of Holy Well and there’s a Catholic shrine there. It dates from prehistoric times when it was just a spring coming out of the ground. Folklore tells of a pagan having his head cut off and water gushing forth, so it was clearly a pre-Christian water shrine. Then, as they often did, the Catholics took it over and built a Gothic edifice around it. There’s a huge plunge pool where the afflicted could bathe. In fact, the building next to it is a little museum and there you’ll find piles of discarded crutches from people claiming to have been cured.

I’m West Yorkshire born and bred. I lived there until 2004 and always said I’d never move as I loved it so much. It has a fantastic landscape and fantastic people. Now the same applies to North Wales.

I’ve been writing and published since 1986. It's a hobby that has taken over my life. I’ve written co-written or contributed chapters to, I think, 23 books, I’m turning into Barbara Cartland. The books are on a variety of subjects. The first was a booklet about mystery big cats called Cat Flaps. I’ve co-written several books on UFOs/flying saucers but from a journalistic, academic folklorist point of view, not a believer's point of view. Then I wrote a few other books about folklore and the last four books have been around Britain's psychedelic culture including my latest, In Search of Smiles, about Operation Julie (the UK police investigation into the production of LSD by two drug rings during the mid-1970s). When I was young, in the early 1970s, I was an enthusiastic participant in psychedelic culture. In 2006, I realised no one had written a social history of psychedelic culture in Britain and I thought I could write it and I did. That’s was a book called Albion Dreaming.

Folklore is everywhere in North Wales and UFOs are modern folklore. There have been stories about people seeing lights in the sky throughout the ages, and there are many incidents recorded in this area of the world. But I’m a sceptic, not a debunker. If I found evidence that aliens had crashed in North Wales, I’d be more than happy to write about it.

I can’t get enough of North Wales. People ask me why I don't travel abroad and I tell I don’t know enough about where I live. My favourite place is the Rhinogydd mountains . Very few people go there. It’s really, really wild and littered with prehistoric monuments and has an atmosphere to it that gets me every time I see it.

Great British Life: Bodysgallen Hall head chef Abdalla Ahmed El Shershaby. (c) Bodysgallen HallBodysgallen Hall head chef Abdalla Ahmed El Shershaby. (c) Bodysgallen Hall

Abdalla Ahmed El Shershaby

Head chef, Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno

I joined the team at Bodysgallen Hall in July 2009 as a demi-chef de partie in pastry, and progressed through the ranks, taking over as head chef in 2020.

Before that, I worked as a pastry chef at Hilton in Cairo for three years, then as a pastry chef in Sharm El-Sheikh for five years.

I started my journey by studying culinary arts at Cairo College for three years, where I developed a deep appreciation for the art of cooking. My passion for cooking began at an early age alongside my mother, and now cooking has become my form of art.

After completing my studies, I worked as a pastry chef at the Hilton Cairo for three years, gaining valuable experience in crafting delightful pastries and desserts. I had the opportunity to work at the Hyatt Regency and Coral Sea Resort in Cairo, which further expanded my culinary expertise, learning new styles and techniques.

My influences in the culinary world include Mohammad Salma, a highly skilled chef and teacher at Cairo Hilton, who has been instrumental in shaping my knowledge and expertise across various aspects of cooking. I have also been greatly inspired by John Williams, a former head chef of Bodysgallen Hall, from whom I have learned valuable lessons and gained insight into the art of European-style cooking. This mentorship and guidance has played a significant role in my culinary journey and passion for the culinary arts.

What I love about Bodysgallen is the people. My colleagues are incredibly friendly, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that feels like a family. The team is small and close-knit, which fosters a strong sense of camaraderie. Bodysgallen is a unique place, and I take pride in being a part of it.

I have lived in North Wales for 14 years, since moving from Cairo. I love the friendly nature of its people and the beautiful scenery, with its proximity to the mountains and the sea. The warm and welcoming attitude of the locals makes it a delightful place to be and I love walking along the stunning coastline. Being so close to natural parks and recreation, I can always find something to enjoy.

When not in the kitchen, I am a Manchester City supporter. I also like going out and traveling, especially taking city breaks to explore new places. Additionally, spending time with friends is something I value and enjoy doing during my free time.

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